SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Deputy mayor of Savanna-la-Mar Ian Myles has called for the fire department to audit hydrants in the entire parish of Westmoreland. His call comes after attempts to respond to a major fire at a supermarket on Monday night revealed that hydrants in Savanna-la-Mar were not working.
“I’m asking that [the results of the] audit reaches the municipality within the shortest possible time. We cannot continue to operate like this, especially in this space where we have so many board structures within this parish. “Westmoreland has more than 50 per cent board houses and so the frequency of fires is something we’re always gonna expect,” Myles argued.
Reports from the fire department indicate that the This One supermarket on Lewis Street, a concrete structure with a slab roof, along with two 40-foot containers and all their contents were completely destroyed in Monday’s blaze.
The fire department received the call about 9:18 pm and dispatched one fire unit each from the Savanna-la-Mar and Negril stations.
At Thursday’s monthly meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation, Myles said he was shocked to find out that all the hydrants in the town were not working as it is an issue that has repeatedly been raised by Councillor Lawton McKenzie (People’s National Party, Grange Hill Division).
“I can’t believe that the township of Savanna-la-Mar doesn’t have a working fire hydrant. I am not saying that if the fire hydrants were in use then they could have saved the entire building, but more could have been saved,” Myles reasoned.
He said a fire truck had to travel approximately three miles to get water to extinguish the blaze at the supermarket.
During the meeting, both Myles and the fire department’s Sergeant Norris Mitchell praised owner of Honeyghan’s Funeral Services, Melvin Honeyghan, for allowing access to water from his privately owned truck to fight Monday’s blaze.
“This is what cooperation is, and I want to laud Mr Honeyghan for his efforts in helping to rescue one aspect of the building,” said the deputy mayor.
When contacted by the Jamaica Observer, Honeyghan said Monday was the fifth time the fire department had called on him for help. The fault, he said, does not rest with firefighters but the lack of water.
“Westmoreland on a whole…is in a deplorable condition where water is concerned,” the businessman explained.
He offered firefighters some advice.
“They need at least two tankers to feed them with that volume of water,” he advised.
One will run out and it takes a long time to refill, he warned.
“When my unit goes to fill it takes about half an hour to an hour to full one tank of water. So for them to take an hour break from every unit to cool the [blaze], the fire will re-engulf and start to blaze harder than before,” he said.
“When I went around there the night, two units were out of water. One was on standby, they end up with three units, no water. I had to give them half tank of water first. I had to empty the water from my building to give them a full tank [and] they were able to out the fire. I think…if they have at least two units — two tankers to a unit — they would do much better,” he said.
Honeyghan was also praised by Councillor Danree Delancey (PNP, Bethel Town Division) who also extended his sympathies to business owners who lost their property as a result of the fire. He also renewed his call for a fire station to be placed in his division.
“Up in the hills of eastern Westmoreland, where I am from, there are no citizens or businessmen up there with a water truck on standby to help us when we have a fire,” Delancey noted.
That, he said, made it even more vital for a fire station to be put in place in Bethel Town to serve residents of the upper sections of Westmoreland and, by extension, neighbouring communities of eastern Hanover, south St James, and north-west St Elizabeth.